author of "The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America"
Executive Producer & Host
Nicholas Buccola, author of "The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America"
Political science Professor Nicholas Buccola teaches and researches American politics, including contemporary issues such as same-sex marriage, social justice, contemporary moral controversies, and political liberals and conservatives. Other areas of expertise include the Supreme Court and constitutional law.
He is the founding director of the Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights, and Justice at Linfield College.
His book, The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty, has garnered praise for its relevancy and insight. The biography was published by New York University Press in 2012, and highlights the life of Douglass, a slave who became one the most influential activists and orators of the 19th century.
In addition to academic publications, Buccola has published opinion columns and provided political commentary in regional and national newspapers and journals, including The Oregonian, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun, Dissent magazine and Reason magazine.
Documenting the clash between the civil rights firebrand and the father of modern conservatism continues to illuminate America’s racial divide.
On February 18, 1965, an overflowing crowd packed the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England, to witness a historic televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley Jr., a fierce critic of the movement and America’s most influential conservative intellectual. The topic was “the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” and no one who has seen the debate can soon forget it. Nicholas Buccola’s The Fire Is upon Us is the first book to tell the full story of the event, the radically different paths that led Baldwin and Buckley to it, the controversies that followed, and how the debate and the decades-long clash between the men continues to illuminate America’s racial divide today.
Born in New York City only fifteen months apart, the Harlem-raised Baldwin and the privileged Buckley could not have been more different, but they both rose to the height of American intellectual life during the civil rights movement. By the time they met in Cambridge, Buckley was determined to sound the alarm about a man he considered an “eloquent menace.” For his part, Baldwin viewed Buckley as a deluded reactionary whose popularity revealed the sickness of the American soul. The stage was set for an epic confrontation that pitted Baldwin’s call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley’s unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.
A remarkable story of race and the American dream, The Fire Is upon Us reveals the deep roots and lasting legacy of a conflict that continues to haunt our politics.